From contemporary to country: Which interior style suits your home best?

Decor Styles

Photo by Studio Stamp


Ok, so you’ve got lots of Houzz ideabooks, you’ve even been to Bunnings to collect your paint swatches (and a sausage sandwich, if you were lucky), you’ve got a proud stack of interiors mags on your coffee table that you’ve been diligently pouring over and now you’re ready to start making over your space. Hooray! But if you’re like many of us out there, you are excellent at saving and liking and looking, but you find it much harder to apply in practice.

Fear not! Identifying your interior design style is step number one to stress-free decorating. Design styles are the building blocks of decoration, and identifying your personal design style provides the road map for everything else from colour schemes, to material selection, floor coverings and art. Read below for a description of the elements of each main design style and select the ones that you identify most with.

Photo by Maike - Look for industrial living room pictures
Photo by Maike – Look for industrial living room pictures

This style emphasises the raw, exposed backbone of a space.
Characterised by exposed brick, steel beams and raw materials, it highlights the history of a property. When going industrial think converted warehouses, converted barns and loft apartments.

Hero items: Exposed brick walls, concrete flooring, visible beams, metalwork on show.

Works well in: Warehouse conversions, large spaces and modern spaces with an industrial look and feel.

Use to: Celebrate the original structural features of a space, create a feeling of openness and emphasise the expanse of a space.

Photo by Seahaven Interiors - More contemporary home design photos
Photo by Seahaven Interiors – More upholstery fabric ideas

Contemporary coastal
Coastal interior design typically utilises a white or cream base palette layered with bright blues, red and yellows. It encapsulates beach-house living, using weathered wood, nautical decor and fresh crisp linen to create a bright, airy space that feels relaxing and fresh.

Hero items: At least some furniture in various shades of ocean or sky blue. Striped awnings. Coir or sisal rugs. Timber trunk side tables.

Works well in: Beach houses (of course), industrial spaces, converted warehouses, cottages and modern apartments.

Use to: Inject a bit of colour, life and soul into any space by appealing to the colours of the sea and nature’s palette. To imbue your space with the freshness of the sea.

Photo by Adrydog - More country kitchen photos
Photo by Adrydog – More country kitchen photos

Country rustic
A relaxed approach to interior design, country rustic style mostly consists of repurposed objects and natural materials. It offers a cosy and warm environment akin to country living. Exposed beams and barn doors are paired with neutral tones in the furniture and decor.

Hero items: A worn timber island bench, tongue-and-groove panelling, some metalwork on show.

Works well in: Country settings, cottages, spaces with a bit of raw charm or any place with a bit of character.

Use to: Embrace the natural surroundings of the space by making a feature out of structural elements and materials. Create a cosy, welcoming and relaxed space for living, country style.

Eclectic interiors mix a variety of periods and styles. Colour, texture and shape play an important part in bringing the look together. It’s best to stick to a few colours with a multitude of fabrics and pattern.

Hero items: It’s really all about the mix of furniture and accessories garnered from vintage shops, auction sites and hand-me-downs.

Works well in: Just about anywhere and in any space, so long as the eclectic intention is made clear.

Use to: Bring together a whole range of items in a fun and interesting way. This style is definitely share-house, rental and kid friendly.
Contemporary design refers to what is popular or used right now. It is ever-changing, always evolving and borrows pieces and styles from all different eras. A space incorporating large windows, unique shapes and open floor plans could be defined as contemporary. Key values of a contemporary home are comfort and sustainability.

Hero items: This is wide open. To really hit home, think about colourful contemporary art, generous sofas and at least some glossy surfaces.

Works well in: Spaces with clean or fresh-painted walls, new builds and old, geometric floor plans and lines. Large spaces that need to be filled, particularly warehouse conversions.

Use to: Bring together a range of aesthetics in a clean way. Make the most of a large canvas or space.

Transitional is all about mixing the old with the new. It creates a space that perfectly blends a sleek modern feel with traditional elegance. The result is an enduring design that is both comfortable and classic.

Hero items: An example would be a Noguchi coffee table paired with a modular sofa, or a contemporary glass-topped dining table teamed with Thonet dining chairs.

Works well in: New-builds and older buildings alike, as the furnishings are able to bridge between styles.

Use to: Fuse together pieces from a range of periods and cultures. Incorporate all your knick-knacks collected over the decades or travel treasures brought from faraway cultures. So, this interior style says yes to a lot. Yes, you can make that Persian rug inherited from your aunt work in harmony with your Replica Philippe Starck Ghost chairs (bought in 2007) under the Scandi-style wooden dining table.

Photo by The Den Interiors - Look for midcentury home design pictures
Photo by The Den Interiors – Look for midcentury home design pictures

Mid-century design emerged between the 1940s and 1970s and epitomised the more relaxed post-war era. The design aesthetic uses natural curved shapes and minimalist silhouettes to evoke a nostalgic retro style. It offers fuss-free style that highlights the functionality and openness of a space.

Hero items: Classic mid-century furniture by notables such as Charles and Ray Eames, Parker Furniture, Arne Jacobsen, Eero Saarinen (see his Tulip table here) and Australian Grant Featherston, to name a few.

Works well in: Most spaces (character-filled cottages and modern apartments, warehouse conversions).

Use to: Bring old and new, secondhand and on-trend pieces together in a genuine way. Furnish your place with calming, honest simplicity. Consider mid-century style when you need your furniture to hold its own against your modern art/loud poster/print collection.

Scandinavian style
Scandi design blends functionality and simplicity. Spaces are carefully constructed to evoke a simple, easygoing lifestyle. There is a great importance placed on white as a base to layer subtle hints of colour. It uses light-coloured features and simple decor to add warmth, texture and depth. It is simple, uncomplicated, and full of light.

Hero items: Clean-lined items in a light-toned wood such as birch. Hide rugs and woollen throws.

Works well in: Modern apartments, industrial spaces, urban spaces and any clean-slate space with features that work well with simple decor.

Use to: Inject a bit of hygge, warmth and cosiness into a cold modern environment, to create fuss-free kid-friendly decor, to fuse secondhand mid-century furniture with modern accessories achieving a contemporary look, to indulge your penchant for fur-covered throws and deer antlers.

Photo by Sandy Foster - Discover shabby-chic style living room design inspiration
Photo by Sandy Foster – Get under these doona ideas

Shabby chic
Shabby chic style uses vintage style and antiques to evoke a soft femininity reminiscent of the French countryside. The use of distressed furniture and soft pastel colour contributes to this sense of femininity and casual living.

Hero items: Distressed farmhouse tables and armoires stacked with vintage plates behind chicken-wire covering.

Works well in: Cottages, white-painted rooms, older industrial apartments and anywhere with a bit of character and age.

Use to: Brighten up a dated space, make a creaky old cottage charming, create a relaxed and welcoming environment, make a space that can take a bit of wear and tear and still look beautiful.



Written by Loknath Das